EVANSTON, Ill. – Here’s a quick look at No. 1 Ohio State’s 58-57 win over Northwestern on Saturday.
How the game was won: Despite missing leading scorer John Shurna, Northwestern nearly pulled off the impossible against the top-ranked Buckeyes. After taking only a two-point lead into halftime, the Buckeyes appeared as they were going to run away with game in the second half, opening it on a 14-4 run. A Northwestern seven-point possession (a 3-pointer, an intentional foul, a free throw and another 3-pointer) put the Wildcats back in the game. Then they began knocking down 3-pointer after 3-pointer. In one stretch late in the second half, they scored 15 of their 16 points on 3s. Northwestern went ahead 55-54 on a Michael Thompson 3-pointer with just under four minutes left. The teams went back and forth over the remaining minutes. With the game tied at 57-57 in the final minutes, Northwestern’s Alex Marcotullio directed a pass under the basket, but it was picked off by Ohio State’s David Lighty. The Buckeyes took the ball down court, dropped it down to Jared Sullinger, and he went to work. He was fouled with 3.5 seconds remaining, missed the first and swished the second. Northwestern’s Drew Crawford had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but his half-court shot banged off the backboard and fell to the ground.
Play of the game: Freshman Sullinger has come through in the clutch plenty of times already in his young career, but his free-throw with 3.5 seconds for the game-winner may go down as his biggest shot so far.
Turning point: Ohio State was up by as many as 12 points in the second half. Northwestern found life when Ohio State’s Dallas Lauderdale committed an intentional foul while Thompson was making a 3-pointer. Davide Curletti sank one of two free, and Northwestern got the ball back. The Wildcats capitalized with another 3-pointer by JerShon Cobb. All of the sudden, Northwestern trailed by only five points.
Player of the game: Nothing new here, it was again freshman Sullinger. He scored 21 points, grabbed eight rebounds, blocked one shot and sank the game-winning free throw. It’s another player of the year type performance.
Northwestern player of the game: Michael Thompson had been cold in his past few games and was even quiet during the first half against Ohio State. In the second half, he was the reason the Wildcats fought back and nearly pulled off the upset. He scored 13 second-half points and finished with 16 points and eight assists.
Stat of the game: Northwestern wasn’t supposed to have the size advantage, but it found a way to outrebound Ohio State 22-18 overall and 8-2 on the offensive glass.
What the game means: Ohio State remains No. 1 for another week. Of course, it hasn’t been that easy for the Buckeyes. This was their sixth Big Ten game decided by five points or less. For Northwestern, it’s a tough one to swallow. This would have been the biggest win in the program’s history. Instead of beating No. 1 Ohio State and feeling great about itself, Northwestern has put itself in a difficult position moving forward. The Wildcats are 3-7 in the Big Ten and fell to 0-7 against ranked teams. Their NCAA tournament chances are diminishing.